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Recently been pondering, philosophically.  Two things have stirred my wonderment.  First I saw a memory post on FB, which some here may have seen also, about us Baby Boomers.  It had a picture of the mass of us (not actually me, however) sitting in a field near Woodstock, NY trying to hear live rock/folk music.  The piece was remarking on how we in our lives to date have witnessed a lot of stuff evolve.  And one such thing was how we have come from a wholly analog world, and transmorgified in to a nearly completely  digital world.  From vacuum tubes with electron guns and bias grids to junction effect semiconductors thin films and flip-flops.  And so it is.  From fluorescence of phosphors on a CRT to flashing arrays of LEDs, and a whole lot else.  Not least would be the second observation: recent postings about the wonders and frustrations of Weber carburetors ( a recurring theme here)  along side arcane reports of what and how to jury-rig a Type 1 to run with an ECU and EFI.  It struck me that carburetors in general could not be more analog, depending entirely of the laws of fluid dynamics and clever machining and manufacturing to get an air/fuel ratio to the right place at the right time over a huge range of operating conditions, which includes going from operating with the throttle completely closed to completely open and everything in between. All figured out by cut and try, fit and fiddle. The works Coupled to mechanically switched electric circuits and copper wire wrapped transformers. Tiny passages and holes of a diameter just so.  Contrasted nowadays with electronically pulsed signals sent to remote actuators and high pressure spritzers, governed by an empirical and encoded understanding of what might be needed at any given instant with rather little consideration of the laws of fluid dynamics -- which is to say the tuning table. Analog or digital?  What's your pleasure?

2007 JPS MotorSports Speedster

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The example I find demonstrates the difference between the analog and digital worlds is a car's interior dome light, which used to turn off when the door closed. Now you close the door and the interior lights wait, then fade gently to black. (Incidentally, if you want to check that you shut the car doors you now have to stand at the door of the garage waiting for the interior lights to go off.) The question this raises is how would you have engineered this in the analog world? A spring clockwork-driven rheostat cocked by the opening of the door? One of many things that we buy now not because we always needed them, but because they are so nearly free.

I like Bridget's Subaru fuel injection but currently she's laid up: busts a fuse whenever the key is turned. I got a couple hours into that search already, and it's gonna be more. I just bought a 10 amp breaker to save money on fuses while I search for the short.

Meanwhile, the blue car's Webers are sounding pretty good after just a little fiddling.

Your mileage may vary.

I was about halfway through the Dellorto Manual the second time while trying to fix an issue caused by K&N pods vs OEM air filter canister on my Moto Guzzi Monza when “Ding. The light goes on!”

The difference between carbs and FI is that carbs suck while FI blows.

I think carburetors are an under appreciated engineering marvel: to build a device that delivers smooth running and (relative) fuel economy from idle to WOT based on nothing but specific gravity, barometric pressure, and mmHg vacuum.

Last edited by dlearl476
@dlearl476 posted:

I think carburetors are an under appreciated engineering marvel: to build a device that delivers smooth running and (relative) fuel economy from idle to WOT based on nothing but specific gravity, barometric pressure, and mmHg vacuum.

They're nearly a miracle. They're the absolute high-water mark of the industrial age. They shouldn't work at all -- the fact that they work nearly perfectly is nothing short of amazing.

Last edited by Stan Galat


@edsnova posted:

...I got a couple hours into that search already, and it's gonna be more...

Ay, there's the rub.

When digital miracles are working, they're miraculous.

But when they're not working, they don't give up their secrets. They're inscrutable. You can stare at featureless black boxes as long as you like, but they remain mute.

Analog mechanical things speak to us if we know how to listen. Maybe they should move but don't, or shouldn't but do. Either way, they will work with us if we're smart enough to learn their game.

With modern stuff, we throw out the old thing and plug in a new one. We never learn exactly what failed or why. There is no game to win.

And, in the end, I think what we like most about messing with cars is playing the game.


If you stop and think about what we've seen in our time here, it is simply staggering.

I remember the first LED calculator I had in the early 70s. How about the digital watch? I had both when the prices came WAY down. Then came the scientific calculator. I remember my cousins worked for IBM and saw my first PC in what 1979 or 1980? We had Radio Shack TRS-80 Model I and Model III in HS in 1981-1982. That's when I learned my first programming language: BASIC. And to where we have come in 50 years?

When I started at NY Telephone we were still installing party line service! In the early 90s, we were tasked with taking all the one and two party lines and consolidating them into the 4-party lines the customers were paying for. The customers really didn't like that! That was 1991 to 1994 or so.

In 1995-1996 the internet exploded and EVERYONE got a 2nd line for dialup modem use only. We added so much capacity to the twisted pair network for a while. I put a down payment on a house with cash from all the overtime. I got married and paid for the wedding and honeymoon with CASH.

Ten years later(2004 and up) we were splicing fiber on EVERY street for FTTH(fiber to the home) which became FiOS. Today you can get 2Gbps service at your home. That is going both directions, upload and download, on the same single fiber! 150 microns in diameter! Pretty cool.

The monumental technology change we've seen is amazing.

With the advent recently of cheap WiFi jammers I'm feeling pretty smug. I wired every device in my home with CAT5 that is capable. Go ahead, jam that LOL! Yeah, I'll lose the laptop and the cellphone. But the rest of it can't get jammed unless the wires are physically cut.

You all can keep your AI and self-driving though. It's just not for me.

Analog shifting, steering, and clutching, that is DEFINITELY for me.

@DannyP - You and Chris are of the same mind.  My daughter recently built a new custom home and Chris was over there part time for a few weeks installing CAT5 cables, a server cabinet, an I/O cabinet (both residential size) and I don't know what else to every room.  I have CAT5 going to three TVs and some other stuff in my house, so that the sets never have to buffer anything, so no waiting.  

I still have my first, four-function, LED readout calculator.   I'll have to find it to confirm, but I think it was a Radio Shack model.  I still have my first (and only) business calculator from the early 1980's, a well-used and slightly beat up HP-35C which uses Reverse Polish Notation when doing calculations - That was to the TI calculator world what Apple OSX is to Microsquash, today - A little weird until you got the hang of it, but going between the two worlds was always a little PITA.

Digital is the new standard and analog is the new luxury. If you don't believe me, buy a watch. I recently bought a very nice Swiss Tissot... quartz chronograph. It is the nicest watch I'll ever own and was 1/10 the price of a comparable mechanical watch. It keeps time perfectly, which cannot be said of a Rolex Oyster.

I almost bought a new VW Jetta GLI last fall because it's pretty much the last small affordable and sporty sedan available with a manual transmission and I know these cars are going away. But it's got a park bench for seats (instruments of torture, they were) and a digital dash and giant touchscreen for basic functions. In the end, it felt like I was already too late-- that the manual transmission was left there as a parlor trick rather than something to give me control. There are manuals that blip the throttle for you on a downshift, I guess so you never have to learn how to drive. This is a "feature" -- like having a self-kissing wife or a WiFi hotspot in the car.

In Jeanie's minivan, the heated seats and steering wheel controls are on the touchscreen. I'm told it's because a line of code in a box full of smoke buried somewhere in the car is a lot cheaper than a couple of analog switches, but the difference in utility is an order of magnitude (just try turning on the heated steering wheel in a car that controls it with a touchscreen while wearing gloves, I dare you).

A heated steering wheel is a ridiculously nice luxury. But needing to remove gloves to turn on a heated steering wheel is a metaphor for the overuse of technology. If I need the heated steering wheel, it's cold enough that I don't want to take off my gloves.

Yesterday, I wanted to boil some water in the garage to check my CHT gauges and label the leads to each of them. I took out Jeanie's new induction cookplate and an induction-rated pan. It took me a solid 5 minutes to figure out how to turn the thing on, because it's got a touch-sensitive switch rather than a big "off/on" switch like every appliance has had since time immemorial. Once I finally figured it out, the thing had the water on a rolling boil in about 1/4 the time a normal hotplate would have taken. We got a new toaster recently and it was the same thing.

And there it is: a new and cool technology made (nearly) unusable by means of... technology.

Pure analog is often very clunky and inaccurate. What is nice about it is the interface and the total control it allows (Big Brother is not deciding he knows better). I think the ideal is an analog interface and control with digital accuracy and reliability.

Like my new watch.

Last edited by Stan Galat

Wouldn't it be cool, and make a whole lot of sense, if those heated steering wheels and a few other things could be controlled simply by the driver saying, "turn on the steering wheel heater"?

I doubt we're far from that - a lot of "infotainment" systems can do more than just navigation and cell phone, these days, so managing analog stuff can't be far behind (if it isn't here already on some models).

It could be a little disconcerting, however, if my infotainment system were to tell me:

"Your fly is down"......

Last edited by Gordon Nichols

Wouldn't it be cool, and make a whole lot of sense, if those heated steering wheels and a few other things could be controlled simply by the driver saying, "turn on the steering wheel heater"?


Supposedly a lot of functions in my new BMW can be access through voice command, but I doubt I will ever use that functions.

@DannyP said "If you stop and think about what we've seen in our time here, it is simply staggering."  I'll stretch that a bit by mentioning that my father was born in 1906 before cars were commonplace and only three years after the Wright brothers.  Quite a few places did not have electricity or indoor plumbing.  The changes he saw were amazing.

Wouldn't it be cool, and make a whole lot of sense, if those heated steering wheels and a few other things could be controlled simply by the driver saying, "turn on the steering wheel heater"?


Voice recognition software is more temperamental than a 12 year old girl. It’s another useless “feature” taking normal/easy functions and making them frustrating chores.

Buttons and knobs.


@Stan Galat posted:

... and this is why I'd hate that. ^ This is how the code would be written, which would handily turn the steering wheel heater on anytime the O/A temperature was above 40 deg F.

"Thanks for calling Wayward Porsche, Audi, and Volkswagen, Mr. Galat. Our next available appointment is May 23rd, at 8:30 AM.

Please be advised that any adjustments to the computer on your GTI call for a complete reload of the programming, which typically requires two hours of technician time. Would you like to go ahead with a service appointment at this time?"


Last edited by Sacto Mitch

Google quantum computer and you'll see what's coming in the next 10 to 15 years.  It will sync up with AI and machine learning and usher in a whole new level of compute power that we've never seen before.

The promise of new materials, drug discovery, healthcare, logistics is going to be accelerated and so will the downsides.  Quantum Computers will be able to break all forms of digital security and encryption we use today.

A brave new world as they say!

Speaking philosophically . . . and so we are.  Great stuff here.

FWIW my 2018 Honda Accord has a lot of digital this and that and what I will describe as a hybrid UBX.  There is a pretty straightforward touch screen but there is also a proper number of buttons, knobs and switches that I think Stan could cotton to.  It does not have a heated steering wheel, however, so Stan's conundrum about not wanting to take his gloves off in order to turn the damn thing on does not present.  I don't really miss that as I have never had it, so . . .?? I do have heated seats, and I think I can make that button function with my gloves on. And I see another paradox here too: if its so bloody cold there in Stanistan that you have your gloves on, even if you could manage to get the hot wheel going, you'd have your gloves on and how would you even know?

We can fix Ed's algorithm by editing the > with <.  And I do think he has the right idea.

And here is a little tid-bit to the whole digital concept.  Even though we now have so much digital in the auto world, the machine itself is still quite analog: air flows, pistons reciprocate, bearings turn, oil gets hot (or not) and flows, etc.  While the ECU does the heavy lifting now, it still needs somebody to measure analog stuff, and make it so Master ECU will be able to understand it.  And it will need in many cases to convert its digital decisions into analog events, like opening a throttle by a smidge.  And so we come to a little known bit of smoke in the box: analog to digital conversion and vice versa, A/D and D/A, which is a really clever little bit of engineering in silicon that is what turns the bits into music, or the  temperature into bits.

And OMG!! party lines?? we had that in VA Beach in the mid 50s.  Pick up the phone on the wall and if nobody was talking, you waited for the operator to say "Number please" and you'd tell her (always a her) four (?) digits.  We were there when the system went to dial-up and seven digit ph numbers -- we were SO modern then.

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